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School and Therapy for My Child With Autism Are Not 'Respite'

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Sending my child to school or therapy should never be seen as “respite.”

Nor should the people caring for my child see it that way either.

And yet caregivers of children and youth with disabilities are often judged this way.

So let’s get something straight, shall we? Sending a child or youth to school is a fundamental human right. Kids deserve to be in school with their peers accessing the accommodated and modified curriculum, and to be with their peers for their social and emotional development.

Let’s also get this straight — sending a child or youth to therapy for hours at a time is both necessary and important to the development of life-sustaining skills.

And yet, when speaking to others I get the statement, “Hey, that’s great your son gets to go to school or therapy for a few hours a day. What are you going to do with your time?”


Here’s the answer.

The supports in place for my son and kids like him have never been consistent or adequate. I could never leave him full-time at a daycare.

I couldn’t send him to school alone because what he needed was so many different therapies that I had to take him to during the day.

So I left my job. For this reason, and the underlying health conditions that came in addition to having a child with disabilities.

Mothers of neurotypical children drop them off at school and go to their destinations, whatever they may be — work, school, the gym, or heaven forbid a mom takes time to invest in herself for her mental health.

Fathers of non-disabled kids drop them off at school, camp, or a birthday party and take off to golf, go grocery shopping, or meet with a friend.

Parents of kids with disabilities are just trying to do the same.

So stop.

Other parents. Even those parents of kids with disabilities.

Family members.




All of you.

Stop judging any parent who is trying to do the best they can to get their child or youth the educational supports they deserve.

They aren’t “trying to get rid of their child,” or “sending their kids.”

What they do with their time is not for you to judge.

This is for anyone who has mentioned how great it was I had the opportunity to send my child to school or therapy, while their own kids are in full-time school and someone else is responsible for their child’s education. While their own youth attend hockey camps and overnight sleepovers at Grandma’s house. While their own kids benefit from the full experience of community sports and recreational groups.

Stop equating sending a child to school or therapy as “respite” for the parent.

Start normalizing the need for kids with disabilities to attend school and/or therapy full time.

When neurotypical kids were taken out of school during lockdowns, the uproar of parents needing their kids to be in school was heard. Because the parents needed to work, because the pressures of educating their children were too much. Well folks, welcome to the world of parenting kids with disabilities. Imagine if we said to these parents, “Sorry, school isn’t ready for you, we will see you in two years or longer. It might be longer depending on where you live. And even then, I can’t guarantee how long it will last or if you’ll get the support you need. Is it possible for you to change or leave your job? Do you really need to pay your rent?”

That’s the reality of accessing social services for kids like Max in this province or this country. It’s normal and perfectly accepted by governments, schools, and treatment centers to say this to parents of kids with disabilities.

My son waited for 2.5 years before he got help from the state to help him communicate and use a washroom. And that help was/is nowhere near what he actually needs.

So if I “send him” it’s because he deserves to go. He deserves to be part of a loving and accepting community. He deserves to have specialized and trained professionals to teach him the curriculum that is best suited for him. And those professionals should know what they’re doing.

So when I drop my child off, what I do with my time is none of your business. Just like I don’t ask you what you do with your time.

This story originally appeared on The Truth We Tell.

Originally published: April 14, 2021
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